A hybrid triplane design could provide airfares cheaper than rail

Solar panels on the aircraft's wings provide 'always on' cabin ground power.
Chris Young
An artist's impression of the BEHA.Faradair

Could the aviation industry be about to go electric?

British aviation firm Faradair is developing a hybrid triplane concept for short-haul electric travel. 

The aircraft, called the Bio Electric Hybrid Aircraft (BEHA), will feature up to 19 seats and will be propelled by a fan driven by an electric motor, a report from the BBC reveals. A small gas turbine in the aircraft will generate the electricity required. 

Hybrid triplane firm promises low-cost intercity flights

The BEHA's triple-level wing design will also allow take-offs and landings on short runways. According to Faradair CEO Neil Cloughey, the BEHA will have fewer moving parts, making it cheaper to operate. Solar panels on the aircraft's wings provide 'always on' cabin ground power. 

The reduced operating cost will also make its way to consumers, allowing for flights at a lower price than rail, Cloughey said. And the aircraft was also designed to be sustainable at a time in which governments worldwide and the aviation industry are working to cut carbon emissions. "We decided we would come up with an aircraft that would not only be economic to use, and therefore cost-effective, but would also be quiet and sustainable," Cloughey told the BBC.

The BEHA, Cloughey explained, will eventually allow short-haul flights between cities such as London and Manchester for roughly £25 each way (approx. $30). That's less than it costs to travel the roughly 163 miles (262 kilometers) between the two cities by rail.

Solving the electric aviation problem

The aviation industry accounts for approximately 2 percent of all global carbon emissions. Following the IPCC's latest alarming report on climate change, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced a commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Most aviation firms, including Airbus, are focused on using biofuels in the short term, though hydrogen and electric propulsion aircraft are also seen as severe options for curbing emissions.

Duxford, Cambridgeshire-based Faradair believe the hybrid system they use in BEHA is an ideal alternative to the very limited capacity of battery-electric aircraft. Though electric cars are on course to replace internal combustion engine vehicles in the coming years, electric aircraft are very limited by the weight of batteries and the power required for take-off. For example, NASA's Maxwell X-59 electric prototype aircraft can only fly for approximately 40 minutes at a time.

Faradair will compete with eVTOL flying taxi startups, including Volocopter and Lilium, which expect to start operating by around 2024. Unlike eVTOL flying taxis, the BEHA needs access to a small airstrip. The flipside, though, is that it should have more passenger capacity than most drone-like eVTOL aircraft. Faradair hopes to have its aircraft flying by 2025, and it expects to operate commercial flights by 2027.

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